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CHAPTER VIII

THAT THE PERFECT LOVER OF GOD HAD LIEVER RUN INTO GREAT PAIN THAN BY SIN ONCE GRIEVE GOD: AND WHY GOD TORMENTS THE RIGHTEOUS BY THE WICKED

From the great fire of love so great beauty of virtue grows in souls that a righteous man would rather choose to suffer all pain than once grieve God; although he knew he might rise by penance and afterward please God more and be holier. For ilk one perfect understands this: that nothing is more dear to God than innocence, nothing more pleasing than good will. For truly if we love God rightly we would sooner lose great meed in heaven than once sin venially; for most righteous is it to ask no meed of righteousness but the friendship of God, that is Himself. Therefore it is better ever to suffer tormentry than once, wilfully and knowingly, to be led from righteousness to wickedness.

Wherefore it follows that they who so burningly love Christ that they will in no wise sin, not only shall be free from pain, but shall joy endlessly with angels. They truly that serve wicked deeds, and ween that worldly and fleshly solace is to be greatly loved, loving those things they desire, forsooth they lose both the joy that they love, and run into the wickedness that they eschewed not.

But it is wont to be asked by some why God almighty chastises the wicked and the righteous together. Thou seest under the flail both corn and chaff at once; but in the winnowing the chaff is cast out and the corn is busily gathered to man’s use. If all men lived truly, without doubt we should dwell in peace and tranquillity, withouten debate and battle; but since among the few good are many evil, many diseases comes that evil may be chastised: and thus evil things happen to good men because they are mingled with the evil unto their death. The righteous also, because they are ready to sin, so that their readiness be not brought to deed are taught to take a light scouring here, that they may escape the bitter scouring that is to come.

Therefore if thou suffer persecution, wretchedness, and other diseases, thou hast that which accords to the place in the which thou dwellest. Is not this the vale of tears and tribulations in which thou art? How wouldest thou therefore be glad in prison, and live in all prosperity in thine exile, or go thy long pilgrimage withouten diseases? Have mind that Christ and His apostles have suffered tormentry, and thou by bliss seekest to come to joy! But thou shalt not. Forsooth either, in this life, the fire of God’s love shall waste the rust of our sins and cleanse our souls to make them able to flee to bliss, or else, after this life, the fire of purgatory shall punish our souls, if it happen we escape the fire of hell. Or else, if the strength of love be not so mickle in us that it can altogther burn us, it behoves us to be cleansed with tribulation, sickness and dis-eases.

This also we have withouten doubt: that no young man can be made holy among flatterings, and sweet words of fair women, and plenteousness of liking things, unless it be by the untrowed greatness of God’s grace; where so many and so great things stir many to fall, so that holy men have also ofttimes been lost. Wherefore I trow it is a great miracle when man by the grace of God and the love of Christ perfectly despises these cherishings and manfully goes up betwixt these enemies to the soul—although they seem soft to the flesh—to the high holiness of heavenly contemplation. And, withouten fail, the holier he is and the more plenteously filled within with the solace of God’s love, although he be set in the fire, he knows not how to burn; and the foul lusts of an unclean life offering themselves, he has perfectly slakened them.

It is no marvel (that sometimes), though it be seldom, Christ works in some beloved to Him, of whom it is said: Expandit nubem in protectionem eorum, et ignem ut luceret eis per noctem; that is to say: He has spread a cloud, the shadow of God’s grace, for their defence against fleshly desires, and the fire of endless love to give them light within to mind, through the night of this life, that they be not taken by the unlawfulness of vain beauty. Truly Christ’s love burns in them with so great sweetness, that all fleshly and unlawful liking they think of as most foul, and therefore they despise it.

Therefore touch thou not lecherously that which is lawful neither to desire nor to have. Have in mind also to withhold thy hand, thy tongue, and thy body; and displease not they conscience concerning women. Truly the stirrings of lechery are the array of men and women. Also hot lectuaries, and other meats that with their heat too mickle enflame the flesh—which nourishers of bodies and killers of souls are busy to make—should be eschewed by the chaste.

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